“Howl to the Hill” event shines a light on the USDA’s shameful pattern of inaction, with advocates calling on Congress to pass Goldie’s Act
WASHINGTON, July 21, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Yesterday, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) hosted “Howl to the Hill” on Capitol Hill to rally support for Goldie’s Act (H.R. 1788), which would ensure the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does its job to protect dogs in federally licensed puppy mills. Named in honor of a Golden Retriever who suffered and died at a USDA-licensed puppy mill in Iowa, Goldie’s Act would require the USDA to conduct more frequent and meaningful inspections, provide lifesaving intervention for suffering animals, impose penalties for violations, and communicate with local law enforcement to address cruelty and neglect.
The “Howl to the Hill” event included a rally with local advocates and puppy mill survivors, as well as a press conference led by the sponsors of Goldie’s Act, U.S. Reps. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Zach Nunn (R-Iowa). In addition to the ASPCA, members of Congress were joined by special guests, including Bellamy Young – an award-winning actor and animal advocate best known for her role on the ABC political drama Scandal – and Sheriff Keith Davis from the Wayne County Iowa Sheriff’s Office, who worked alongside the ASPCA and other animal welfare agencies to rescue hundreds of dogs from the Iowa puppy mill where Goldie died. One of those dogs – Holly, a 2-year-old Pomeranian-Husky mix – was also in attendance at “Howl to the Hill,” serving as the event’s official ambassador dog.
“Howl to the Hill aims to raise awareness about Goldie, a beautiful Golden Retriever who endured months of agony and pain under the USDA’s watch and suffered a preventable death in an Iowa puppy mill,” said Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations. “The USDA’s repeated failure to enforce the law has encouraged cruelty and a callous attitude that animal suffering doesn’t matter. By including Goldie’s Act in the Farm Bill, Congress can prevent thousands of other animals from meeting the same tragic and unacceptable fate at the hands of the federal agency obligated to protect them.”
“USDA inspectors knew Goldie was suffering. They documented her deterioration month after month, even filming her skeletal condition, and had the authority to help her, but the agency took no action until it was far too late and she could not be saved,” said Bellamy Young. “Shockingly, Goldie’s story is not unique and as a lifelong animal lover, it’s unconscionable to me that the USDA’s inaction has allowed this type of cruelty to persist. Thousands of dogs are still suffering on the USDA’s watch, and I urge Congress to pass Goldie’s Act to ensure the USDA does its job to protect these innocent animals.”
“Federal inspectors were aware that Daniel Gingerich was not in compliance with federal animal welfare laws and documented a host of violations over the course of several months, yet the agency did not alert my office until the situation had spiraled out of control and necessitated intervention from the Department of Justice,” said Sheriff Davis. “Had the USDA notified my office, as the law enables them to do, when it first learned that this licensee was failing to provide minimum standards of care, we could have investigated state cruelty violations and prevented hundreds of dogs from suffering. Goldie’s Act is a commonsense solution to the USDA’s blatant pattern of non-enforcement that burdens local law enforcement and the animal welfare community, and I urge Congress to pass this critical bill to ensure that those who violate the law are held accountable.”
“Protecting animal welfare has been a personal passion of mine since my time in the New York State Assembly,” Congresswoman Malliotakis said. “I’m proud to join ASPCA and a bipartisan group of colleagues in pushing for the consideration of this critically important legislation today to protect those without a voice by requiring the USDA to publicly report all animal welfare violations, remove animals from abusive environments, and take action to hold animal abusers accountable.”
“As a pet owner, I can’t imagine my dogs being subjected to the inhumane conditions found at many licensed puppy mills. Bad actors operating these facilities use and abuse these puppies until they no longer serve a purpose,” said Congressman Mike Quigley. “I’m proud to cosponsor Goldie’s Act to provide the USDA the power to ensure these facilities are complying with the law. We have a responsibility to protect these animals and finally end rampant animal welfare violations.”
The Iowa puppy mill where Goldie died was operated by Daniel Gingerich, a USDA-licensed breeder who accumulated over 200 total violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), including dead dogs, dogs with untreated injuries and illnesses, dogs with painful fur matting, dogs in cages that were too small, and moldy food provided to the dogs. Despite observing these violations of the law, the USDA continued to permit Gingerich to breed and sell dogs, never confiscating any dogs who were suffering and never collecting any penalties from Gingerich. Gingerich eventually agreed to surrender all of the animals in his care after a complaint was filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ). Gingerich pled guilty to two animal neglect charges related to his now-shuttered commercial dog breeding facility, but the USDA settled their complaint against him and all the documented violations of care resulted in zero fines.
This case is part of the USDA’s ongoing pattern of failing to enforce the AWA and protect the animals in its care, even when the conditions are extremely poor and animals are dying. Months after the Gingerich case, more than 4,000 beagles were rescued from another USDA-licensed business, Envigo, where the USDA documented horrific cruelty during “routine inspections” over several months, including dead dogs, starving dogs, dogs in dangerous conditions, and dogs in need of veterinary care. Yet, days after the DOJ negotiated the surrender of the beagles, the USDA renewed the company’s license for another year, and a shocking report from Reuters revealed that senior USDA leaders went to great lengths to cover up both Envigo’s treatment of the dogs and the agency’s own refusal to protect the animals.
The USDA is responsible for ensuring that their licensees follow the law, and when they choose to allow violations to go unreported and unpunished, the agency contributes to animal suffering. Last year, the USDA recorded over 800 violations for licensed dog dealers alone, but the USDA failed to take any meaningful action against these problematic dog dealers. Goldie’s Act would restore welfare to the Animal Welfare Act to fix USDA policies that have failed animals and allowed suffering for far too long.
Goldie’s Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in March by a bipartisan team of lawmakers including Reps. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Zach Nunn (R-Iowa), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), and Chris Smith (D-N.J.).
For more information about the ASPCA’s efforts to protect dogs in commercial breeding facilities, or to urge your U.S. senators and representative to support Goldie’s Act, please visit www.aspca.org/GoldiesAct.
About the ASPCA®
Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) was the first animal welfare organization to be established in North America and today serves as the nation’s leading voice for vulnerable and victimized animals. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation with more than two million supporters nationwide, the ASPCA is committed to preventing cruelty to dogs, cats, equines, and farm animals throughout the United States. The ASPCA assists animals in need through on-the-ground disaster and cruelty interventions, behavioral rehabilitation, animal placement, legal and legislative advocacy, and the advancement of the sheltering and veterinary community through research, training, and resources. For more information, visit www.ASPCA.org, and follow the ASPCA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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